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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 202: Soil Resource Management
Strategic Vision
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Vision Statement:
Providing Today's Bounty and Sustaining Land Resources for Future Generations.

Mission Statement:
To develop procedures, strategies and systems that maintain or enhance beneficial soil properties and environmental quality, retain a favorable ecological balance, and sustain productivity.

Program Rationale:
Sustainable agricultural systems and all land uses require a well functioning soil resource. Soil's capacity to control water and solute flow, to serve as a nutrient reserve and the primary location for nutrient cycling processes, to act as a purifying, filtering and buffering media for waste, and to function as a structural support media enable it to function as the central resource to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation. These functions are not only important to agricultural issues, but directly affect many of our other current concerns - sustainable development, biodiversity, global change and environmental quality. Mismanagement of the soil resource has lead to the collapse of civilizations.

Agriculture understands the importance of soil and desires to maintain it. However, sometimes in its desire to maximize yield rather than productivity (output per unit input), agriculture has exacerbated some problems. It is imperative that there be a balance between the short-term utilization of the soil resource, which can lead to abuse and misuse, with its long-term sustainability. Intensification of agricultural production in response to population growth and future food demand will place unprecedented stresses on soil and other resources.

There is a need to holistically assess the soil resource to achieve the appropriate balance between utilization and sustainability. There exists no comprehensive, coordinated approach for this assessment. Therefore, land managers and resource conservationists are not able to qualitatively or quantitatively evaluate (with necessary accuracy) the effects of land use practices or management decisions on the soil resource.

Assessments without management strategies to improve degraded soils or maintain good soil stewardship are of little value. Management strategies must consider the relationship between soils and their surrounding environment and use in its totality. Best management practices that focus on one factor to the exclusion of others do not lead to optimum soil resource use. We may, for example, improve the short term fertility of soils at the expense of environmental degradation or improve water quality by inappropriately curtailing food and fiber production. With appropriate management systems we can use our soils for productive purposes while conserving, restoring, protecting, and enhancing their quality.

The purpose of the Soil Resource Assessment and Management National Program is to identify, conduct, evaluate, and coordinate research and technology transfer activities conducted by USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) scientists throughout the United States. This provides a comprehensive, coordinated approach to develop management strategies designed to restore, enhance, and protect the soil resource. These management strategies must focus on sustainable systems that match plants, animals, tillage and other manipulations with water supply, climate and soil conditions.

Other national programs address Soil Resource Assessment and Management issues. Readers with an interest in specific topics may find additional information in these associated national programs: Integrated Farming Systems; Water Quality and Management; Air Quality; Global Change; Manure and Byproduct Utilization; Grazinglands Management; Integrated Crop Production and Protection Systems; Animal Production Systems; Bioenergy and Energy Alternatives; Plant Diseases; Crop and Commodity Pest Biology, Control, and Quarantine; and Food Safety.

Projects in this Program - by State

    Maroon = click to see related projects in these states.
    Gray = No related research in this state.


Last Modified: 10/24/2008
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